I don’t really watch much reality TV – or I should say “reality” TV. My reasoning behind not watching too much “reality” TV is primarily because it’s not really reality TV. Even if the show remains unscripted and “raw,” there are still cameras in front of ordinary people. I don’t know about you, but when there’s a camera directly in my face or even off to the side, I generally am not myself. Either I act entirely unlike my normal, quiet self or I’m incredibly nervous and either extra quiet or I stutter a lot. It probably isn’t this way for all reality TV shows, but, for the most part, they’re stimulated reality.
Reality to me is very boring. I’m single, I work part time, I go to school full time, but my classes aren’t too demanding. I have a lot of downtime that I don’t really do too much with. And even if I didn’t have a lot of downtime, my life is still pretty boring. There are a few thrills here and there, like when I watch a really close football game or if I get into a shouting argument with someone because they irritated me beyond belief. But those moments are very few. Most of the time I’m just going through the motions of my day; but when I watch a “reality” TV show, I see something totally different.
I must say that these shows have changed over the years. I know that The Real World used to be just a bunch of people living together for a year or so while the cameras rolled and caught their every movement. But then a sister show spawned three years later, Road Rules, and added a specific twist, an agenda, to the whole show. And now most shows have some kind of game to it all, some kind of twist to make things a little more interesting. And I believe these make reality TV shows into “reality” TV shows; reality is no longer real, but fabricated, even if it isn’t scripted. Simply by having the cameras there, the realness of reality becomes altered.
There is one particular show that comes to mind as a perfect example: All Worked Up. I watched a couple episodes a few weeks ago and it was pretty hilarious what people would do when their cars were being repossessed or they were being served subpoenas because they were being sued or divorced or whatever. But what I wondered after watching all those episodes was whether these people would really act “all worked up” had the cameras not been there? It seemed to me that once they saw the cameras, their emotions were stimulated and they’d grab their shotguns, say a few more profanities or merely just act more macho to try and show the world they were a tough guy.
Whether or not this is true is still irrelevant because at the end of the day, the editors have chopped out all the stuff they didn’t like or didn’t think would be entertaining to viewers, so even then the “reality” of it all becomes skewed and distorted. Editors might take the time to portray certain people in certain lights in order to make the show more interesting. Real reality TV, I believe, would be a hidden camera constantly filming someone without them being aware of the camera. And there wouldn’t be anything edited, either, because that would take away from the reality of it all. It’d just be an hour of someone walking around their apartment, their kitchen, or their bedroom doing random things like picking their noses or scratching their butts. Those shows would be funny to me because they’d actually be real, but I doubt they’d ever get aired because I’d probably be the only viewer.
With all that said, I am a big fan of Survivor. It depends on how one defines “reality,” but I don’t think it’s a true “reality” TV show. The people are real, the emotions are real, but everything is simulated by the cameras, the stranded island, and the competition. People do not sign up for it to show their true characters or their true personalities so the world can praise them for who they really are. They sign up to win a million dollars doing whatever it takes, even telling lies or selling whatever personality they want or need to sell. Russell from the Heroes vs. Villains 20th anniversary edition of Survivor is the prime example of the kind of attitude and strategy that many, if not most, survivors bring to the show. He was a sneaky little oil company owner, lying and manipulating his way through the ranks of survivors.
As for the other “reality” TV shows, I’m not very interested them at all, unless there is absolutely nothing on TV. And even then I’d much rather read a book or watch reruns of Friends or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If they’ve got some game attached to it, something that makes the participants strategize their every move, then maybe I’ll watch it. But I believe that Survivor is so popular for a reason; because it is such a unique show all its own. There are so many more elements going into the game of Survivor that aren’t in any other shows. Contestants on Survivor are tested mentally, emotionally, and physically. Unlike most other game shows, they have to find a way to work together in order to truly survive in desolate places. But they can’t focus too much on surviving, either, because they’re there to win a million dollars. The moment they miss out on forming the most strategic alliance or voting out the right person (usually the one that doesn’t go against the majority), they’re the ones being voted out.
I can’t wait for tonight’s episode, mostly because I love the show, but partially because I have a slight crush on Brenda. She’s tricky, too; she told Chase that she was a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins and that that’s how she knew Jimmy Johnson was once their coach. Survivor is a show that ought to be watched with friends and/or family because there is so much to discuss, like, who you think is going to be voted off next or what the best strategy for a particular person might be or what one person is going to have to do in order to gain alliances or immunity. And thus I arrive to what I find to be the good thing about “reality” TV shows; they draw friends and family together to create their own show. No, there aren’t cameras, but like I said, that’s when reality truly sets in; when we aren’t being encouraged to act differently just because we know America’s watching. Reality is oftentimes spontaneous and unpredictable and influenced more so merely by the people around us and not the camera or the producers or the host of the show. In real reality shows, it’s just us and ourselves.